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  • D.A.
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on July 26, 2007
I'm probably too generous in giving this 4 stars, but it's fairly clever, mildly humorous, and an enjoyable read. And it IS a juvenile, after all. But I've read short stories that were longer. At best - perhaps - it's a novelette. Definitely too short to be a novella. And there's really only one character. The whole story is a gimmick, basically. Well, that's fine for a short story, I guess...

But Connie Willis is one of my all-time favorite authors. When is she going to write another novel, like the superb "Passage" of 2001? And in the meantime, if she's going to write short fiction, why cheat her faithful readers by selling them as individually bound books? I wasn't very pleased when she did this with "Inside Job," her expensive 2005 novella, but it's really getting ridiculous with this book.

"The Winds of Marble Arch" is supposed to be coming out in September, but that's a collection of short fiction - many (most?) of which have been published in previous collections. OK, yeah, I'll still buy it. She is, as I say, one of my very favorite authors. But I hate to be taken for a sucker. This... short story would make a nice little gift for a kid, but nothing more than that.
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If you are an SF fan of a certain age, you remember the Heinlein "juveniles" -- books written for young readers that included good stories, appropriate messages (such as "think for yourself"), and definite, forward-thinking science fiction elements. Most of those stories stand the test of time, I think; certainly I loved every one, even when I read them as an adult.

Connie Willis, whose science fiction and fantasy has made plenty of adults laugh and sigh, turns her attention to the same young audience in D.A. It's a very quick read for a grownup -- I zoomed through it in 40 minutes -- which makes the book pricey, if you judge it on a cost-per-page basis. (I got mine from the library. I recommend you do, too.) On the other hand, I have a 12-year-old grand-niece who probably wouldn't get through a long book, and I am very tempted to send her a copy at the next gift-giving occasion.

The values imparted by our heroine are appropriate for the 8-to-12 reader (though I do wonder about the stink bomb...).

Did I mention that it's entertaining? It is, very. To an adult, this is a chuckle; I suspect the references to annoying teachers and even-more-annoying classmates would be more powerful.

I've read every word of Connie Willis's that I can get my hands on, and I admit that this isn't on the must-have pile. But I like this book, and I think it'd be a great way to turn a youngster onto science fiction.
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on May 2, 2009
Connie Willis wrote this story with a nod to LA Con IV, the World Science Fiction Convention of 2006 which hosted her as the Guest of Honor. The theme for the convention was Space Cadets/Space Academy; the fundraiser to secure the bid for Los Angeles solicited supporting memberships that made one a Fellow of the Academy. Just so, I have my Space Cadet sash & merit badges as mementos of the event.

The story is a wickedly funny reality check - not everyone is a high-minded dreamer who longs to bounce off bulkheads in orbit.

If you're disappointed that it wasn't a full-blown novel, you shouldn't be: this was intended as a shared moment of mirth with those who recognized the talents of a very capable & fun-loving author. And now that you've got a frame of reference, maybe you won't feel so cheated.
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on October 9, 2007
A lot of people are complaining that they wasted their money on this book because it is "too short"!!! While I too would like a full-length novel from Ms. Willis ASAP, I would have to argue that 80 pages from her is worth far more than 300 pages from the average writer. And for those of you whinging and whining over how you felt cheated by paying for such a short book, read the book description before you buy. It clearly states exactly how many pages are contained in the book.

For me, this was a fun read: like a Heinlein juvenile without the questionable attitudes towards females. The lead character is sassy and intelligent, and her puzzling out of the mystery behind what's happening to her is clever and amusing. And all for only 25 cents a page!!!
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on July 12, 2007
Witty, clever, frenetic. Good stuff. Classic Connie Willis. But more of a hardcover short story than a novel, so value for price is somewhat debatable.
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on July 17, 2007
I may be a couple of (binary) orders of magnitude older than the target audience, but I found this short book every bit as good as Connie Willis at her best (e.g., Doomsday Book).
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on December 9, 2014
D.A. (which stands for something that matters in the story…thus no spoilers), is a novella that is reminiscent of the juvenile fiction of Robert A. Heinlein, particularly the story The Menace from Earth, in that it features a spirited teenage girl in a future where space travel is a reality. Theodora Baumgarten is an atypical teenager in that she is one of the few high school kids who has no desire to get into IASA’s space cadet program. When she is unexpectedly chosen, despite not applying, she will stop at nothing to determine how this cruel joke happened to her and what she can do to get her way. My rating:

I mentioned that D.A. is a Heinleinesque story, and I stand by that assertion. If you’ve read The Menace from Earth, or Podkayne of Mars, which feature young adult female leads, or even stories like Star Beast or Starman Jones that feature female characters, you will recognize the spirit of the Heinlein, and maybe even the Andre Norton, juveniles here. Over the last decade I have become enormously fond of those stories, and so I compare them in order to compliment Willis on this novella.

Theodora Baumgarten is an engaging, entertaining protagonist. Connie Willis writes her with 21st century sensibilities while also managing to get that teenage voice just right. She is smart and resourceful, but also willful and potentially reckless. I won’t say much about the story as it is one you need to experience unspoiled to get the full effect. I will reiterate what I wrote above, which is that Theodora finds herself chosen to participate in IASA’s Space Academy, an honor that she neither deserves (according to admission standards), nor wants. But despite doing everything she can to get out of this assignment, she ends up in space. What she does while there is what makes the story interesting, and informs it’s title.

I loved this one. It is a quick read and those who are not fond of short stories may lament that they are just getting to know this fun character when it is all over, but for me D.A. is a testament of what can be done when a talented author sets out to write a fun, entertaining short story. It won’t change your life, but it will make you glad you took a moment to read it.

D.A. is $2.99 on the Kindle, and it is my opinion that it was three dollars well spent. This is one I will read again. In fact, I will probably read it aloud to my wife here soon as it would be fun to share with her and I would get the bonus of being able to spend time with Theodora Baumgarten again. If Willis ever decides to feature her in a full-length novel, she could count on me for a release-week sale.
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on August 24, 2007
If I'd bought this, instead of getting it out of the library, I'd be pretty furious. As other reviewers have mentioned, this is too short to qualify as a book, and it's not worth the $20.00 list price at all. Some may say, young adult fiction by its nature is shorter than adult fiction, but I say no. (Just last night I reread another YA novel of exactly 300 pages for a nickel less than this book.)

Furthermore, it's not very in-depth nor "screwball comedy" as the book jacket blurb indicates. Things happen to the main character but she doesn't change or grow as a result, and there's no buildup to the eventual reveal. The choice Theodora makes at the end seems almost random. The other characters don't get any time or complexity either. If this were a TV show, it'd be the pilot for a series, and not a memorable one at that.

But, three stars for competently written (on a sentence level). Worth reading from the library, if you have about half an hour to kill and are a Willis completist.
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on November 1, 2013
In this short story Theodora Baumgarten is your typical youth just fooling around in school, although serious about getting an education at the same time.

It comes as a total surprise when it is announced that she has been chosen as an IASA space cadet. A surprise and a shock as she never applied for the position. Within 2 ½ hours of the announcement she is whisked away, while protesting the entire time, and she is off on an adventure.

When she reaches training she starts again to try and find out what the heck is going on.

It ends up she is a D.A. (title of the book)

You’ll have to read the book to find out what a DA is.

Recommended for a YA audience, which if I was one; would result in one more star for the rati
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on September 9, 2013
I've read many of the other reviews that stated the book was too short. If I had purchased it on Kindle I would have felt cheated but I got it from the library and saw it was very very short. I loved it. It is written in the vein of the Robert Heinlein juvenile novels (which I still read every once in a while and love). I guess the plot really doesn't matter. It is the superhuman abilities that these kids have along with their smart mouth and ability to overcome any crisis (or adult). Of course, it is pure candy. But every once in a while a Snickers bar is a fun treat. And that's what this book (long short story/short novella) is -- a treat.
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